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Updates from ASLA

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Landscape Architecture Academic Programs Respond to COVID-19

Over the last few weeks, colleges and universities across the country have started requiring students and faculty to leave campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and landscape architecture programs are finding themselves rapidly transitioning their courses to an online delivery method. Landscape Architecture Magazine published Teaching and Learning Online, By Force last week documenting how some programs and educators are making these difficult changes. These are extraordinary efforts during unprecedented times but the common theme is landscape architects are ready for this challenge. As Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) Chair Joy Lyndes, ASLA, stated “Landscape architects are problem solvers. We develop design solutions that achieve the best outcomes by assessing multiple factors that can be ambiguous. That’s what we do. This is truly a global emergency involving public health, public spaces and our economy which we can help problem-solve.”

What first was to only be two weeks has now turned into remote learning for the remainder of the semester at most institutions. Students and faculty who were traveling abroad studying during spring semester had to abruptly return home, first from China and Italy, now from all over the world. Field trips scheduled for spring break? Cancelled. Commencements for soon-to-be graduates? Cancelled. Higher education, like the rest of the world, has been flipped upside down and barely recognizable.

Regardless, landscape architecture programs and their faculty are stepping up to accept this challenge. While no accredited programs were previously offered fully online, many professors are familiar with teaching certain courses virtually and have used online platforms such as Zoom, Canvas, Educreation, Brightspace, and Voicethread before. Still, faculty are struggling to adjust some of their courses, particularly studios, to an online platform.

Program chair at University of Oregon and LAAB board member Roxi Thoren shares:

“Experiential learning is central to our department’s pedagogy, and it’s a real challenge to rapidly change courses to a completely different teaching mode. We’re using taped and live-streamed virtual tours by instructors for our field-based plants and ecology classes, virtual town halls for community-engaged studios, and experimenting with drone videos for studio site visits. But we’ve cancelled our Urban Farm class for the first time in thirty years, because the pedagogy is connected to field work at our farm as well as community service projects in farms, markets and food banks around the county. And we’re struggling with how to teach our fabrication and design-build courses if our shops remain closed.”

In order to support the landscape architecture programs, LAAB hosted the webinar Landscape Architecture Online Education on Friday, March 20 to discuss best practices and tips for teaching landscape architecture courses online. The panelists included Professor Kelleann Foster, ASLA, Pennsylvania State University; Professor Benjamin George, Ph.D., ASLA, Utah State University; and Dr. Cheryl Hayek, Chief Academic Officer, The Art of Education University and a commissioner for the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

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Additionally, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ASCA) has related webinar resources available regarding online design education which should be helpful for landscape architecture faculty.

Many programs have been reaching out to understand how some of these changes, particularly moving to online education and offering courses as Pass/Fail or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, will affect their accreditation status. LAAB shared a Response to COVID-19 statement, which addresses many of these concerns.

Additionally, on March 17, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Office of Postsecondary Education issued a document titled Information for Accrediting Agencies Regarding Temporary Flexibilities Provided to Coronavirus Impacted Institutions or Accrediting Agencies. The guidance document, which suspends some federal regulations due to COVID-19 disruption to campuses and travel, is intended to provide both institutions and accreditors with flexibility regarding accrediting visits and for distance education, designed to save institutions time in seeking approvals and reduce costs so that students can be protected and assisted as institutions grapple with COVID-19 and its impact on higher education.

As this situation changes daily, LAAB staff will continue to communicate with and respond to programs regarding adjustments to operations. Currently, staff is still available during regular office hours to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Please contact Kristopher Pritchard at 202-216-2359 or kpritchard@asla.org.

 

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